Life in the Time of COVID-19: Rugged Individualism or Self-Centeredness? or: Why America Can’t Flatten the Curve

Screenshot of Johns Hopkins University’s COVID-19 Dashboard.

So what’s next? Ban wearing the color of blue? Or black or red? No more stripes? Plaid only Tuesdays? Why do we have politicians that do not understand what the constitution is. Some sheep are all for this. Give me a ticket and I am suing for violations of my constitutional rights. – Jennifer W., conservative

Well, here we are at the beginning of our COVID-19 summer, and even after nearly four months of partial or even total lockdowns throughout the nation, the United States of America is still the No. 1 country for coronavirus infections and deaths in the world.

As of 1:33:54 PM Eastern Daylight Time, this is where we are:

  • 9,679,764 confirmed cases throughout the world
  • 491,095 confirmed deaths throughout the world
  • 2,444,483 confirmed cases in the U.S.
  • 124,732 confirmed deaths in the U.S.
Photo by cottonbro on

Now, you’d figure that the “greatest nation in the world” would have figured out a way to combat the novel COVID-19 virus with the same “can-do” spirit that helped previous generations cope with a Great Depression, fight a global war against two formidable militaristic regimes, Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan (and a not so formidable one in Italy), put astronauts on the Moon not once but seven times, and “won” a Cold War against the repressive and morally bankrupt Soviet Union.

But no. America is saddled with the burden of an Administration that seems intent in tearing down the nation in every way possible, including the steady dismantling of existing international mechanisms (the relationship with our NATO alliances being one) that have, for the most part, kept a third world war at bay since 1945.

President Donald J. Trump’s response to the pandemic has been disastrously inept. Yes, he did ban travel from the People’s Republic of China on January 31, but, as Vox chronicles it in a timeline it published on June 8:

January 31: Trump suspends entry to the US for many — but not all — categories of people traveling from China, a move which some epidemiologists warned at the time was “more of an emotional or political reaction” than a public health decision. The Department of Health and Human Services declares the coronavirus a public health emergency.

Since then, Trump has wobbled from position to position, first claiming that it would only affect a few people and that it would go away, then coming up with the twisted notion that the pandemic was a hoax cooked up by the Democratic Party and the “mainstream media”:

February 26: The first instance of community spread in the US is confirmed by the CDC.

February 26: Trump appoints Pence to lead the coronavirus task force; during the same press conference, he again downplays the virus.

And again, when you have 15 people, and the 15 within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero, that’s a pretty good job we’ve done.

@realDonaldTrump, February 26, 2020

February 28: Trump refers to the coronavirus as the Democrats’ “new hoax” at a rally in South Carolina.

The Democrats are politicizing the coronavirus… One of my people came up to me and said “Mr. President, they tried to beat you on Russia, Russia, Russia, that didn’t work out too well. They couldn’t do it. They tried the impeachment hoax that was on a perfect conversation. They tried anything, they tried it over and over, they’ve been doing it since you got in… And this is their new hoax.”

President Donald Trump, February 28, 2020

I could go on and on about the Administration’s pitiful and embarrassing response to a pandemic that has killed over 120,000 Americans in just over four months. I don’t have the time to do that; I’d end up with a list as long as Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace.

But Trump’s maladroit handling of the COVID-19 crisis is not the only reason why America can’t “flatten the curve” the way, say, New Zealand has. The lethargic reaction at the federal (and in cases where Republicans control legislatures and/or governors’ mansions, state) level is merely the reflection of the recklessly self-centered reaction to common-sense steps to combat a global epidemic.

There are far too many facets to what I call COVID-19 Denialism, ranging from such false equivalences as this one:

If we have ~56,000 people die a year from the flu / flu like symptoms According to the CDC why is it that the W.H.O. Does not Declare this a pandemic? Just asking and questioning ?

…to a self-centered refusal to wear face masks in public venues, even when local governments make it mandatory, as reflected in these comments on Facebook:

Hey guess what this isn’t a socialist nation dude. I pay for medical services. Do you? Or do you get that for free. So if I get sick which I am pretty sure I already had this mon event of a super flu back in dec. but hey who cares about the fact that the masks don’t work and you are all a bunch of suckers who didn’t bother to look at what works and doesn’t. You just go ahead and put that mask on. If I ordered you to wear a hat everyday will you? Let’s say it’s because we don’t want your sensitive head to get burned but you aren’t smart enough to know that so we’re gonna require it. Would you? – Jennifer W.

Here’s an exchange between a Concerned Citizen and a No Mask COVIDiot:

Concerned Citizen: Which constitutional right is being violated by being told to wear a mask in public? I’ll wait.

No Mask COVIDiot: Freedom of expression and due process.

Concerned Citizen: There is no right to “expression.” As for due process? What? Which process? It’s also illegal to drive in public without a driver’s license. Same thing.

No Mask COVIDiot: Freedom of expression falls under the 1st Amendment.
Also, emergency orders aren’t laws. They cannot legally be enforced.

Concerned Citizen: Then you have the right to express NOT wearing pants in public as well?

No Mask COVIDiot: You’re being crude, asinine, and indecent. No class.

No Mask COVIDiot: You’re sick.

Concerned Citizen:  You are right, no one can MAKE you wear a mask, BUT you CAN be refused service anywhere without one. So, if emergency orders can’t be legally enforced then we all can go to the airplane with our guns strapped on because we have concealed weapons permits, RIGHT?? As long as I don’t get on the plane its fine, they can’t arrest me.

No Mask COVIDiot: So if I owned a business, I could refuse you service for being pro LGBTQ, right? 😏

In the meantime, my home state of Florida has seen a surge in new COVID-19 cases – nearly 9,000 in one day.

I’m a big believer in the Great American Experiment and love my country. So much so that I don’t identify as a Colombian-American or exercise my right to have dual citizenship. In fact, this was one of the issues that divided my half-sister and me; she was born in Argentina – her father was the doctor attached to the Colombian Embassy in Buenos Aires – but always was “more Colombian than a Colombian born in Colombia,” while I consider myself an American – born in Florida – of Colombian heritage.

That having been said, I don’t have patience for the myth of American exceptionalism or the blind worship of rugged individualism, especially that version spouted by COVID deniers and “rebels against the Mask of Oppression.”

The extreme conservative take on masks. Source: Facebook

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why we aren’t flattening the COVID-19 curve.


CBS MIAMI Facebook post: Better Wear That Mask Timeline of Trump’s Failed Response

Published by Alex Diaz-Granados

Alex Diaz-Granados (1963- ) began writing movie reviews as a staff writer and Entertainment Editor for his high school newspaper in the early 1980s and was the Diversions editor for Miami-Dade Community College, South Campus' student newspaper for one semester. Using his experiences in those publications, Alex has been raving and ranting about the movies online since 2003 at various web sites, including Amazon, Ciao and Epinions. In addition to writing reviews, Alex has written or co-written three films ("A Simple Ad," "Clown 345," and "Ronnie and the Pursuit of the Elusive Bliss") for actor-director Juan Carlos Hernandez. You can find his reviews and essays on his blogs, A Certain Point of View and A Certain Point of View, Too.

10 thoughts on “Life in the Time of COVID-19: Rugged Individualism or Self-Centeredness? or: Why America Can’t Flatten the Curve

    1. We’re not doing too well. Yesterday, Florida reported 8,900 new cases of COVID-19 in one day. That’s a record. Too many individuals want to be “rugged individuals,” and not enough people using common sense. Florida just had to close bars and pubs because patrons don’t observe social distancing or wear masks.


      1. For the most part Colorado is a blue state. Esp. my county. Bernie won Colorado. So I guess you can say we are focused on the collective well being of the group. Well, not everywhere. Down south toward Co Springs they’re more Republican.But people who don’t wear masks in stores stand out.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. The rugged individualists are following the pied piper. They’re complying with the party’s idea of a “true” American, rather than trying to understand the science of the problem and acting with compassion toward fellow Americans (and the rest of the world).

    They’re not even following orders. They’re following suggestions. Innuendo.

    Good things booze has gotten so expensive. I’d be sitting at home abusing my liver.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I hope not. We survived the Civil War. We survived the Depression.

        What I do see as a hopeful sign is the Black Lives Matter Movement as a way of empowering the economically disadvantaged and as a way of assuring one’s race (or perceived race) is not an impediment to achievement in life. There will always be inequalities, but trying to level the playing field and to keep it level is something everyone benefits from.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. You look at “the greatest generation” and how they practiced, as a community, self-sacrifice and rationing and helping each other. Then you look at today, these so-called “rugged individualists”. We’ve changed from a community-oriented culture to one that says the desires of the one outweigh the good of the many. I don’t like masks either, but I’ve managed to get myself somewhat acclimated to it. It’s amazing that the most resistance to masks is from people who were worried about “death panels” a few years ago.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Interestingly, even during World War II – and before that, the influenza pandemic of 1918-1919, – there was always a core group of Americans who behaved like the “no-maskers.” As in every war we have fought since 1775, no matter how “just” or necessary it is (and WWII falls into the second category), there was opposition to either being involved at all (though that was pretty much an unpopular stance to take), the draft, and – more common than many would admit – rationing of gasoline, food, and many consumer goods. (In “The War: A Ken Burns Film,” it is pointed out that one-third of all transactions in the U.S. from Pearl Harbor on to V-J Day were illegal, usually in the black market.)

      Back then, of course, most adults had been through the Great Depression, a downturn that (in one of those paradoxes of history that are sad but important to remember) was reversed by the huge spurt in government spending made necessary by the war effort. I think the community spirit was strongest among people who had suffered from hard times and knew what it was like to be unemployed, undernourished, and even homeless. And World War II was, as far as I know, the last time that the U.S. government put a lot of effort into domestic propaganda, especially when it concerned the need for every man and woman who had a defense-related job to work as hard as possible to help the war effort. (One slogan I remember from a book that I have was seen on a sign in New Orleans’ Higgins Industries, where many of the landing craft used on D-Day and other amphibious operations were built: “The Man Who Relaxes Is Helping the Axis.”)

      Since World War II, even though we have had boom-or-bust periods, most Americans now alive have lived in an era of “relative” economic prosperity, and we have not faced an existential threat since the fall of the Soviet Union. In the absence of either a Great Depression that viscerally (and negatively) affects over two-thirds of a nation, or someone lobs a bunch of nukes at us and destroys huge swaths of the country (including rural areas), the attitude that the “good of the one outweighs the good of the many” will prevail.

      Liked by 1 person

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